My family will be the first to tell you that I am a lame nurse maid. When someone is sick, I’ll stick it out for a little while, soothing, doting, and responding compassionately to moans of misery and requests for all sorts of assistance, but once they are as comfortable as I can make them and only a touch from God and time will heal, I’ve got things to do! If they are well enough to do something to relieve their own suffering, I expect them to do it rather than indulging their misery and expecting pitied assistance with what they can and need to do for themselves.
If the saying was scriptural, it would be my mantra: God helps those who help themselves. (The Bible actually establishes the opposite, describing God as a defense for the helpless in Isaiah 25:4, NASB; calling it foolish to trust in our own hearts in Proverbs 28:26, and declaring a man cursed for trusting in his own flesh for strength in Jeremiah 17:5.)
Likewise, if someone is going through a hard time, I care, and I’ll listen, but at some point, if there’s no relief, we all have a decision to make: we can either trust God and obey His word, even if it’s hard, or we can wallow in our circumstances, focusing on why life is so hard and so unfair. I don’t want to see anyone in that place, and I genuinely desire for my friends and family to be free of suffering, but at some point, it’s time to move forward.
Clearly I’m not tipping any scales in the mercy department.
I’m actually embarrassed and uncomfortable admitting this about myself because it seems so hard-hearted. Honestly, I’m not! To a certain degree, it’s the weak side of the strengths God has given me.
According to Romans 12:6, we each have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us. Mercy with cheerfulness is actually a Spirit-given gift to promptly and eagerly extend kindness and help to the miserable and afflicted. This is the long-haul person who stays by someone’s side for the duration of whatever they’re going through.
In describing how God grants spiritual gifts, Paul compares followers of Christ to a physical body made up of different parts that all need to function in their given purpose in order for the body to operate effectively. If we were made up of all big toes, we’d be in trouble! The same goes for spiritual gifts. If all believers were strong in exactly the same spiritual gifts, the body could not do its job. Therefore, by God’s perfect design, some of us are stronger in certain gifts than others.
While this passage explains why we are legitimately the way we are, God is showing me I cannot use my weaknesses as an excuse to ignore scriptures that require a gift I don’t have.
I think God may be rewiring something in me, http://clicktotweet.com/kG28S though, as scriptures about justice and mercy begin to register with my heart and not just my head. I know I’ve read them before, but now, the eyes of my understanding seem to be cracking open. Conviction urges me to do something different. Something scriptural. Something obedient.
I’m seeing that mercy is more than just meeting a physical need. It’s showing kindness. It’s hurting when others hurt; grieving when they grieve. It’s coming alongside them and staying by their side until they have healing or breakthrough. It’s time. It’s investing emotions. It’s allowing my heart to be broken for another’s suffering. It’s being moved to a place where I’m willing to be inconvenienced and uncomfortable for the benefit of someone else.
God is piercing me with His word, speaking directly to my heart:
Be a doer of the word, Shauna, not a hearer only, deceiving yourself.”
(James 1:22, emphasis added)
If I am hearing and not doing, it’s because I’m deceiving myself. If I’m hearing what God has to say about showing kindness through sacrifice to those who are miserable and in need, and I’m not doing it because I’m too busy doing everything else I’m better gifted to do, I’m deceiving myself.
There’s more to generosity than money and things. Money meets a need, but it takes a person to show God’s love. To be Jesus to another.
Sometimes I’m so busy checking off all we’re doing right that I turn a blind eye to what we’re not doing at all. Or I justify what we’re not doing by focusing on what we are.
Either way, “to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). As a friend I dearly love always says, “Slow obedience is no obedience.” I would add, “Consolation obedience is no obedience.”
There’s no substitute for giving God exactly what He asks in His word.
Shine Your light into our hearts, Lord. Elevate what’s important to You to a place of priority in us, that regardless of our strengths and gifts, we would all make a way to feed the hungry, give drinks to the thirsty, take in strangers, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-40), and look after orphans and widows (James 1:27) as we become more wholly Yours, using the time and resources You give us to Your glory.